This morning, I was surprised to see Jane Norman, a federal political reporter for ABC News based in Canberra, has managed to get her first Pfizer vaccine shot yesterday, despite not being eligible for the phase 1a or phase 1b roll-out. Apparently, she managed to skip the queue by calling the “vaccine hotline”. She told them she was not eligible, but they booked her in anyway. Well done Jane, love the initiative!
However, the one curious aspect of Jane Norman’s tweets, which you can see below, is that she didn’t share the “vaccine hotline” number she actually called, despite multiple requests. That’s important, because when I called the national vaccine hotline, I was told by the man on the phone that, even though I was eligible for phase 1b, I could not book in for the Pfizer vaccine. He said I simply needed to wait until the government gives me information about how to book. He was crystal clear that there was nothing he could do to help me book a vaccination.
This corresponds with the ACT government website, which tells me; “You are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Based on your age, the Pfizer vaccine is recommended for you. Pfizer clinics will be added to the Vaccine Clinic Finder starting later this week. Please come back soon to search for a clinic near you.”
The truth is, Jane didn’t call the “vaccine hotline”, as she claims, because that hotline doesn’t do bookings. And she hasn’t shared the actual number she called. We reached out to her multiple times to ask about what number she called, as have many others on twitter.
When we called the vaccine hotline this morning, the man who answered referred us to the vaccination FAQ website which says:
“The Pfizer vaccine is currently only available at certain sites across the country and isn’t currently available through the normal booking process with a GP or GP-led respiratory clinic — also called a GPRC. The states are now planning how people eligible for vaccination in phase 1b will access the Pfizer vaccine. Please don’t contact state-based vaccine hubs directly to request the Pfizer vaccine.” [Their emphasis]. Search issue 625 to see for yourself.
What irritates me about this is that Jane Norman, ABC journalist, is sharing that she got a pfizer vaccine, but not how she did it. To claim that she called the “vaccine hotline” is not accurate; and if she didn’t know that when she called, she should know it by now.
We’ve just attempted to do the same, and we can’t secure a booking, despite being eligible. I applaud Jane Norman and anyone else who has managed to get vaccinated. The more we vaccinate the safer we will be. And it’s great that Jane Norman told the world that she jumped the queue; many would not have.
But Jane Norman, who apparently has a phone a number you can call to book a Pfizer vaccine, should share it, so others can do the same. Vaccine priority should not be determined on the basis of belonging to an “in group” of politicians and/or journalists who have a direct number for the Garran Surge clinic. There should be a waiting list for cancelled appointments or no-shows, so that eligible people (especially those working in essential industries) can get their vaccines faster. There is no doubt that hundreds or even thousands of regular Canberrans would happily join a waitlist, to receive a call, should a vaccine become available at short notice.
Why does a non-eligible but well connected journalist have access to a vaccine booking system, when so many who are eligible, do not? Jane Norman claims she received her vaccination because of 25 cancellations, but there is no evidence from any official source that this is true, and she has not shared any source for that information. Meanwhile ACT Health denies sending any messages inviting ineligible people to get vaccinations. Jane Norman did not receive an invitation from any government body to have a vaccine, and she hasn’t said exactly who told her how to do it. While she won’t tell us, it seems likely that she somehow obtained the number for booking vaccines at the Garran Surge Clinic (which was meant only for eligible citizens) and was able to book a vaccine.
Update: ABC News subsequently reported that the number had been shared with ineligible citizens by someone who had legitimately received it. However, it’s not clear why this number was not shared with eligible citizens first. It seems it was a matter of who you know. And Jane won’t say who gave it to her. It seems possible that many in the Canberra political press quietly benefited from the same connection.
So who gave Jane Norman the phone number she used to book her vaccination?
I think it’s wonderful that Jane got herself vaccinated, but I’d love to know how she did it, so I can too. Or, I’d happily join a waitlist, and I’d happily get myself to that clinic within 15 minutes of a phone call!
Jane Norman, politically connected journalist, should tell us exactly how she managed to get vaccinated while ineligible, if not out of generosity, then at least to correct the record. Either the people on the vaccine hotline are lying, or she called a different number.
The (potential) key misdirect here is that Jane did not use a public hotline to take a cancelled vaccine appointment, rather we think she used a private number for the Garran Surge Clinic intended only for those ACT Health deem eligible. That number should be made available to the public, so anyone can try their luck, not just the people with the right connections. ACT Health has admitted ineligible people called the clinic and were vaccinated. No-one except Jane Norman claims that you could book a vaccination using “the vaccine hotline.”
Dear Reader: if you believe that vaccine priority should be decided by doctors, not whether you know the right politicians and journalists, then please share this article widely!